Bringing Back Children’s Book Clubs

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As if I don’t have enough going on keeping up with dance intensives, track meets, play dates and such; I decided that this summer I wanted my girls to be a part of a summer book club.  Not a reading incentive club like so many libraries and schools sponsor now,  but a real old-fashioned book club. Back in the day – the good old 90’s – when my son was younger, one of our favorite toy stores that carried mostly educational items would sponsor summer book clubs.  Twice during the summer the facilitator would introduce a new book and the participants would read the assigned reading then meet each week to discuss the book.  Although he was an avid reader, initially he was not a fan of the idea of getting together with a bunch of strangers to talk about characters, plot lines and settings.  However, after the first couple of meetings, he was hooked.  He made new friends; was introduced to new genres; and he genuinely had a good time.  This is what I wanted for my girls, but unfortunately that store went out of business years ago,  just as this type of book club has fallen by the wayside.  So, since I couldn’t find one, I figured I’d start one.

I turned to Thing 1’s Girl Scout troop to recruit participants and most, if not all, of the girls (and their moms) said “yes”.  Today was our first book club meeting and this was our first book club selection (click on the photo to learn more about the book):

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han

Honestly, I was a bit nervous before the girls got to our house.  It didn’t help that I lost our copy of the book somewhere between finishing it and the meeting.  I know that it’s somewhere in the house, I just don’t know where.  Kinda makes you wonder what the inside of my house looks like, doesn’t it?  Anyway, as you know, 3rd grade girls can be unpredictable.  I knew that my daughter had enjoyed the book, but I had no idea if the others did, too.  Would they be talkative?  Would they be bored? Would they even bother coming to the meeting?  They did, in fact come to the meeting. Yes, they were ready to talk and no, they were definitely not bored.  The response that I received from these delightful little ladies was pure joy.

This had to be the most lively book club meeting that I have ever been to in my life.  They came prepared by actually having read the discussion guide that I had posted on our Facebook group (I will post the discussion guide here  if you would like to share this book with a group of young readers of your own). Talkative?  They were actually fighting over who got to answer questions during our discussion.  They volunteered to read out loud and actually acted out scenes from the book.  No prompting from me at all.  There was an abundance of enthusiasm in the room and I was ecstatic!

Book Clubs are supposed to encourage  and develop a love of reading by allowing children to delve deeper into a story.  On the contrary, reading incentive programs that reward reading a certain number of books in a certain amount of time do not address comprehension or enjoyment.  In fact, they can have the exact opposite effect by emphasizing speed over depth.  Often, in order to win a prize, children will read books that are below their reading level, therefore not building their vocabulary or their level of understanding.  In a time when schools are pushing the importance of reading comprehension these reading incentive programs seem to be counterproductive.

Call me “old – fashioned” or “old school’ or what ever you want, but what I saw here today was a group of kids enjoying each other through reading.  The fact that they actually learned something was a bonus. We need to bring back real book clubs and encourage our children to have fun with books. Today was awesome and I think that I will be smiling about this all week. 🙂

7 responses »

  1. What a wonderful gift you gave your daughters, as they would say in Australia, “Good on you.” It took me back to the summer of 1969 when I was nine, and the local library sponsored a book club, but it was really a book contest: for each book we read, they moved our little space capsule further along the ‘route to the moon.’ Every time I went in to get another book and report another one done, they moved my capsule that mush closer to the moon, the final end goal. But each time I went in, I walked out dissatisfied. Just reporting a book done, without discussing the it with someone was anti-climatic, so disappointing. Your post reminded me of that long hot summer, my last one before being sent away to sleep-away camp. I remember winning the contest and I remember them landing on the moon. What a gift of a memory from your post. But more importantly, what a gift you are giving to your girls this summer!

  2. I love this idea! Thank you for sharing your story. I love the energy and the passion for reading that you describe here. And please forgive me, but I love that you couldn’t find the book. I LIVE THERE TOO. Are we kindred spirits? 😉 You have inspired me. Off to check out this book and see how we could make this work here. Thank you!

  3. I think boys will enjoy it too. Maybe not as enthusiastic about it, but I do think that with the right group of kids they would get into it. My son had a friend that he grew up with that he would share and discuss books with one on one. They were the same kind of people interested in the same kinds of books. It’s worth giving it a try. Let me know how it goes.

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